Button Tree Craft


Usually when I see a craft inspiration online, my mind takes off onto how I want to change it, tweak it, and make it my own.  But when I saw this button project from Simply Designing, I didn’t want to make something like that, I wanted to make THAT.

I just love buttons.  You can put them on anything, and my button collection has been aching to be used.  Even though I’m not totally embracing the thought of spring yet (I figure that way I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t actually show up anytime soon), it’s time to start spring crafting.  I need some color around here, and if we can’t have it outside, we’ll have it inside.

A couple years ago, I bought a painting at a thrift store.  I don’t even remember the original picture, because I didn’t buy it for what was there.  I bought it for the frame.  It had a wonderful, textured basket weave frame with lots of potential.  So, for a couple of bucks, I had a great frame and a canvas that I just painted over.  I bought it with another project in mind, but I never ended up using it for that.  For this project, I painted the canvas white and the frame teal.

I had my son paint a tree, because I am crafty, but I am NOT artistic.  I really, really wish I could draw and paint, but we’re all better off if I leave that up to the experts.

Then, Hilary and I set to work with the buttons.  It was fun experimenting with the colors and combinations.  Hilary is queen of patterns, so I had a very willing helper.  Not surprisingly, she no longer had any interest in helping when it was time to go back and glue each button down.  I was pretty sure my hand was going to fall off after I lifted each one, squeezed a dot of glue underneath, and replaced it.  Worth the effort, though!

This was a great kick start to our spring crafting.  I have found the best way to feed my crafting habit is to change the decor in a few areas of my home with the seasons.  That way, there’s always a new reason to make something, but we don’t end up drowning in stuff.  We only have things out temporarily, and then we clear them out to make room for the new round.  Goodbye winter!  It’s time for color!


Things my teenagers have taught me about parenting as an Orthodox Christian



My oldest daughter is a senior in high school.  All school year, I’ve been waxing philosophical about transitions.  As our family hurtles toward the end of an era, which even though I’ve been anxiously anticipating somehow seems to have taken me by surprise, I can’t help but do a little inventory check.  What can I say about my job so far as a parent?  What does it mean to be an Orthodox Christian parent specifically?  


1)  Teenagers are big babies.

When you have a newborn, you don’t blame that tiny bundle of bodily fluids for all the havoc they have wreaked on your life.  You don’t assign intent to their actions or blame them for anything.  You know they can’t help it, and you’re o.k. with that.  That baby’s world is all about him all the time.  You’re the warm, soft thing that makes those strange feelings of hunger, discomfort and fear go away.  You don’t get a thank you, nor do you expect one.  You’re the parent.  They need you.  End of discussion.

Seventeen years later, things have changed.  For years now, they’ve lived around your schedule, shared your opinions, and your feet are firmly planted on a pedestal.  Then the hormones devour your sweet little one and your world crumbles.  Your life revolves around their schedule: where they need to be and where they want to go.  They have opinions, and they say them…all the time…and loudly.   It was awfully comfy back there in preschool land when that child couldn’t get enough of you.  When all they wanted was to play your games and listen to your stories and just BE with you.  This teen land is quite inhospitable.  Your games are not welcome.  Your mere presence is frequently not welcome.  And your opinion…you apparently don’t even have one. 

It all seems so unfamiliar there, but it really isn’t.  You remember this.  They’re babies.  It’s all about them.  It has to be for a time.  It’s part of them becoming adults.  So, remember when you didn’t assign intent to their actions?  When you didn’t take it personally?  It’s like that again.  You’re the warm, soft thing that can make those feelings of hunger, discomfort and fear go away.  You really can.  You can still be the source of good in their lives.  In a lot of ways, they’re just big babies right now.  You’re the parent.  They need you.  End of discussion.

Being an Orthodox parent is embracing the role of humble servant.


2)  It’s not about ME, it’s about THEM.  It’s not about THEM, it’s about ME.  It’s not about ME, it’s about God.

So, I acknowledge that this time is about serving my children.  Growing up and transitioning to adulthood is unspeakably difficult.  Especially in our modern culture.  They are out there on the front lines, daily fighting for their lives.  They are the warriors.  I am the servant.  

But they can’t be control!  They can’t say those things to me, and treat me like that in my own house, and they can’t…they can’t…  Details, details.  It so easy to get lost in the details.  The small picture is that they’re totally out of line today and behaving like children.  The big picture is that it’s not about me, it’s about them.  They are on their own path to salvation.  I am part of their salvation.  They are part of mine.  We are all working out our salvation in community.  And we do it with fear.  And it makes us tremble down to our toes.  I can’t save them.  They can’t save me.  We can just be thankful for the opportunity to help each other.  We’re in this together.  

Yes, they’re acting like children, because they ARE children.  We are not raising children.  We are raising adults.  We want the end product to be healthy adults who live lives for God.  They’re not there yet.  They’re kids.  Some days half kid, half adult.  Some days all kid.  And those few, blessed days when they say or do something so grown-up, it takes our breath away.  Ah, those days are gifts from God to keep us going!  It’s a process.  They won’t get there without going through the tough times.  We can’t take a child at 12 and plop them into life at 25 and expect them to know what on earth to do.  They have to crawl through the trenches of the teen years, getting muddy and dodging bullets.  They pick the route.  We follow along behind and hand them ammunition when they need it.

Because they’re kids, they say the wrong things.  And it stings.  And they find that one button, the one they can push and get a response each and every time, and they push it all day and all night.  They certainly do.  But it’s not about them, it’s about me.  No one can make me do anything.  No one, including my children.  My children tempt me like nobody’s business.  They tempt me to fire back in anger when they push my buttons.  They tempt me, like the lazy and slothful lump I am, to take the day off and go back on what I said or not follow through with that thing I promised.  They tempt me to make it all about me.  To be selfish, just like I accuse them of being.  But it isn’t about me, it’s about God.

My daughter is also my sister in Christ.  I am not above her, and she is not below me.  We are equals in God.  When l fail to see the image of Christ in my snarling, grouchy teenager, I miss an opportunity.  My daughter is an icon of Christ.  When I talk to her, I’m talking to Christ.  Yet I say and do the nastiest things.  I treat her in ways I would never dare to treat a friend, a boss, or even a stranger.  I’m comfortable with my children, so I let the real me show, and it’s an ugly display.  How different things are when I lay aside the fact that I’m the one who’s right, and I just say to my children, “Please forgive me.”  How different things are when I just say nothing and pray instead.  

Being an Orthodox parent is sacramental.  I meet God in the process.


3)  Time is a created thing.

God created time.  It is not linear.  The past, the present, and the future all overlap and get into a big jumble sometimes.  This is how we can truly live and partake of the death and resurrection of Christ.  How we can already proclaim His return.  God is forever.  Puberty is finite.

My children will live with me for about 18 years.  Probably more, but let’s just talk about that first 18 years when they are children.  Life expectancies now are well into the 80’s.  I could get into big ratios and percentages, but I won’t.  It’s obvious that they are only with us for a small amount of time.  An incredibly teeny, tiny, small portion of their lives.  We don’t have to cram a lifetime of interaction with them into 18 years.  Those young years, they matter.  They matter huge.  But they’re gone.  You can’t parent them as 8 year olds ever again.  You can only parent them for who they are now, and if you forget that, you’ll ruin your chance at parenting them when they’re 30.  They won’t listen to you.  They might not even speak to you.  I’d rather loosen my influence now, so I can still be an influence that they value and seek out later. 

Last year, my family went through a dark and difficult time.  The short version is that my teenage son had a major depressive episode and a literal and complete breakdown.  The day after we admitted him to a mental hospital, I gathered the rest of the family in the icon corner at home.  It felt so small with only four of us there instead of five.  We stood close to make up the difference.  We prayed the Akathist to the Mother of God, Nurturer of Children, and the tears and the brokenness flowed like rivers in the torrent of spring.  I turned to them and spoke a challenge.  We were facing one of the toughest times in our lives, but we had to see it for what it really was…a gift.  I told my family that I didn’t know what we were supposed to learn from this.  It wasn’t clear yet.  I didn’t know, but I was determined that we were not going to miss it.  God gave us an opportunity to learn a huge lesson as a family.  Not in laughter and ease, but in sorrow and suffering.  We were going to live through that mess one way or the other.  We could choose to let it break us, or we could choose to let it make us Christians.  True Christians who fight and get bloody.  True Christians who solely depend on God.  My constant prayer at that time went something like this: “Thank you God for this time.  Thank you for loving us enough to let us hurt, so we can learn in our suffering.  Thank you for this opportunity.  Don’t let us miss it!”  Watching my son fight the demons and knowing that I couldn’t save him from the fight is the most real and certain pain I have ever felt.  That pain did indeed give me clarity.  My son doesn’t belong to me.  He belongs to God.  Glory to God for that!  God is so much bigger and better than I am.  I would hate for my son to have to settle for just what I can give him, when God can give him life.  I can’t be my children’s God, and I need to stop trying to be.   

Being an Orthodox parent is rejoicing that my children do not belong to me but to God.


The amazing God Who created the universe also created my family.  The five of us are perfect for each other.  Not because we get along all the time or agree or even love each other the same.  We’re perfect for each other, because God put us together, and He does not make mistakes.  This is it.  This is my family.  It’s raw and it’s real and it’s far from perfect, but God is with us.  People and places and things can try to stand against us, but it doesn’t matter.  God is with us.  The anger and the hurt and the seemingly endless teenage battles may try to break us, but it doesn’t matter.  God is with us.  It may seem heavy and unbearable, but this time of trouble is truly light and momentary, for God is with us.  Glory to God, He is with us!  

Holy Week Lapbook

Update:  This lapbook is currently not avaible.  God willing, The Crafty Contemplative will begin selling electronic resources soon. Check back here on the blog, or visit the shop, for news. 

The Crafty Contemplative

The Holy Week Lapbook

If you’re not familiar with lapbooks, they are a visual information organizer for kids.  Using a standard file folder or any type of paper, your children can create a portable, easily displayable project based on information they’ve learned.

With the Holy Week Lapbook, you’ll travel day by day through the week leading to Pascha.  For each day, there is a Scripture reading and child-level commentary explaining the significance of the day.  Read and learn about the day with your child, then make a piece of the lapbook.  At the end, you’ll have a “lift the flaps” style book.  The front of each component gives a clue to each day, and the inside tells which day is which.  You’ll have your own Holy Week memory game to stimulate conversation with your child and help him or her make connections between what is happening at church services and the story of the death and Resurrection of Christ.

Don’t have the time or desire for big craft projects?  Lapbooks are the perfect thing.  Make them as fancy or simple as you want.  All you need is paper and a printer.  The extras aren’t necessary.

Note: If you purchased the Holy Week Learning Box from me through Orthodox Christian Craft Supply, know that the Study Guide for the Lapbook is the same as the Learning Box.  The difference is the added templates for lapbooking.

I have other lapbooks in the works.  Feast Days, Lives of the Saints, etc.  Much more coming soon!

Holy Week Lapbook

22 page Study Guide

Triumphant…The First Sunday of Lent

I had an idea for a wall hanging/quilt representing the Sundays of Lent.  Well, I’ve had many, many ideas related to that original idea.  I don’t think I’ve considered this many approaches to the same project in a long time.  After much ruminating and eliminating, I’ve settled on the version I want.  Maybe another version will come to life next year.  I’m still not sure of how all the weeks will come together into the actual wall hanging, but the first week’s element is done.

The first Sunday of Lent is the Sunday of Orthodoxy, also known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy.  On this day, in 843 A.D., icons were restored as right and holy parts of our Faith.  For a time previously, icons had been outlawed, and the resulting conflict resulted in the persecution and death of many Christians.  For the wall hanging element representing this Sunday, I chose to make an icon.

First, I had my dear husband cut a 5 1/2″ diameter circle out of 6mm thick craft foam.  I laid purple fabric right side down and placed the circle on top. 

I traced around the foam with a pencil, removed the foam, and cut around the shape of the circle, leaving about 2″ excess.  If you haven’t noticed, I am not a particularly neat crafter.  No perfectly straight edges around here!  Handmade doesn’t mean perfect.  It should mean doing my best, but I and the things I create are not perfect.  We’re both a little rough around the edges.

Then, I cut slits in the fabric about every 1/2″ all the way around the fabric.  I applied a thin, even coat of glue to the front of the foam and glued it to the center of the fabric.  I applied more glue to the outer rim of the foam and tightly folded the edges of the fabric down.  The slits help the fabric go around the curves.

Eventually, this will sit on top of other fabric, so I didn’t worry about covering up the ragged back.

Next, I crocheted some trim to border the circle.

I strung “E” beads in purple and silver on size 3 crochet thread.  The trick is that you have to string all the beads before you begin crocheting.  Having too many isn’t a problem.  You can get the excess off at the end.  Too few is bad, though!  I strung the colors in alternating groups of three, because…well, I’m Orthodox.  Is there a number other than three?  Perfect activity while waiting for my son at the doctor’s office!

I chained the length I wanted and then began to single crochet.  When I wanted a group of beads at the next stitch, I pushed three of them down, tight against the last stitch.

Then, I single crocheted in the next stitch, which pushed the beads to the other side and encased them within the stitches.  And so on, and so on down the line, until all the beads had been crocheted in.

Then, for the second row, which is a shell row, I did sc in the next two stitches, then 5 dc in the next stitch, repeating to the end of the row.  I glued the completed trim to the circle.  Next, I glued a paper icon to the center of the fabric circle.

Last, I added a border row of gold and pearl beads around the icon.

Every year, we attend the Sunday of Orthodoxy Vespers in our city.  Since we are blessed to have so many Orthodox parishes of varying ethnic backgrounds, it truly is a joining of the Church in unity.  And every year, I tear up and blubber like a baby as we proclaim:

This is the Faith of the Apostles!

This is the Faith of the Fathers!

This is the Faith of the Orthodox!

This is the Faith that established the universe!

I stand with my non-ethnic, convert family surrounded by Greek, Russian, Serbian, and many more.  I look at the dozens of priests lining the front of the church, flanked by dozens of children, all holding icons.  Together, with one voice, we proclaim our common Faith.  When we venerate icons, we do not worship the wood and paint.  Rather, we pass our love on to God.  If it’s an image of Jesus, His Mother, or any of the Saints, they’re all really images of Christ.  God, in His essence cannot be seen or shown in pictures.  But God deigned to become man as Jesus Christ.  To put on our flesh.  To bring that flesh to Him and restore us to what He created us to be.  Living icons of Him.

I look at all the faces around me, and for once, my sight is not clouded by the sin that usually makes me only see the faults in others.  Before me are images of salvation…the image of Christ in those around me.  And amazingly, inexplicably…the image of Christ in me.  God allows me to be with Him.  To worship Him in the Orthodox manner.  To consume the flaming fire of Himself through communion.  To be His icon.  I look at all the faces around me, those living on earth, and those living in Heaven, and I see Christ looking back at me in every one.  To know that Christ lives in me as well…I am overwhelmed.  I am so very, very grateful today for my faith, my Church, and the God Whose image is forever engraved on my heart.

Behold! The Handmaiden of the Lord!

Annunciation Study Guide cover

The Annunciation Feast Day Study Guide is now available through the Shop link or by clicking here:

$3.50        Add to Cart


This Study Guide will walk your family through the story of the Feast, while you pause to create a collection of hands-on symbols to represent what you’ve learned. Ideas and instructions are given for creating both a learning box of 3-D symbols and a simple booklet. Don’t have the time, resources, or desire for creating the 3-D symbols? No problem. The booklet is just as valuable and instructive, and all you need is three pieces of paper to make it. Choose whichever option is best for your family…and don’t you dare feel guilty if you don’t want to do the crafts!

We were so blessed to journey to the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, PA yesterday for the Festal Vesperal Liturgy. The snow couldn’t keep us down! 🙂 Fr. Thomas Hopko gave an absolutely wonderful homily. I won’t even attempt to talk about this Feast today, preferring to stay with his words in my heart.

I’m so glad to say that you can hear this homily, too! The sisters of the Monastery have just started streaming some of their services live! They’re looking to get better equipment, especially if there’s an interest in sharing in their prayer. I’m sure lack of interest won’t be a problem!   The video of yesterday’s service can be found here.  Fr. Tom’s homily starts at about 46 minutes in.

The joy of the Feast!

Time’s a Wastin’

Normally around the first day of spring, we have a party.  We hide eggs, have a bit of a treat, and enjoy being outside.  It’s not always warm, but it’s usually fairly mild.  However, when it’s 23 degrees and it looks like this outside, hunting eggs isn’t a top priority.

Besides, it’s the first week of Lent, and unnecessary celebrations just aren’t necessary.  So, we’re saving our spring party for another day.  Who has time for anything else in the schedule anyway?  Church services every day this week.  Adjusting to the new rhythm.  There’s enough going on.  Which is what I was thinking about as I walked in the snow.

Hilary had a homeschool class at one of our metroparks.  I dropped her off at the nature center, piled on my layers, and like the good cardiac patient that I am…should be…pray I’ll be…headed off down the surrounding trails for a little exercise.  This metropark has a decided focus on the “metro”.  Surrounded by industry, the sounds of banging metal, buzzing high-voltage power lines, and rumbling trains filled the air.  As I got further along, though, the sounds dropped away, and the soft, falling snow sang it’s own melody.

Adding all those extra Lenten services to the calendar can be daunting.  So much time.  I seem to always be on the quest to find just the right schedule to juggle all the different things that crowd to fill my day.  The latest and greatest schedule usually looks just beautiful on paper.  Neat little blocks of time building neat little days.  And then life descends on the schedule, and the paper is soon crossed out and marked up and a big jumbled mess.  There just never seems to be enough time for all that needs to be done.

The arrival of the Lenten rhythm is the perfect opportunity to reinforce my own rhythm.  Because this myth that there’s not enough time, especially enough time to pray, is just that…a myth.  Sure, there might not be time in a neat little box on my schedule with back to back to back activities and responsibilities, but isn’t that the problem?  Not that there isn’t enough time, but that I think I have all these other responsibilities?  Yes, I must work at worldly responsibilities if I want to live and care for those entrusted to me, but that isn’t the goal of my life.  Look at my planner and schedule, and it sure seems like it is.  Appointments and outings and classes and things, things, things, written all over the place with pen, pencil and crayon in hurried, desperate scribbles.

I never used to write down church services or my prayer rule times, because I told myself that there’s no need.  It’s assumed and implied that those will get done.  If prayer truly is such a pillar of my day that I don’t even feel the need to write down a reminder, then why does it always seem to be the first thing to get pushed back and crossed off?  O my wretched soul, why do you continue to be so stubborn, so lazy, and so distant?  You know what you need, but you just won’t be brave enough to go get it.  Life is full of responsibilities, but my one true responsibility, my passion, my life’s work, my very breath, is communion with the living God.  How dare I justify not seeking God by using the sorry excuse of time?  God made time, why do I think my time is anything other than His?

The schedule I’m using now looks very different than the past.  No clock times.  No neat thirty minute increments.  Just the rhythm and schedule that people far greater than me developed.

Each day gets a page.  Each page is divided into blocks of time arranged around the praying of the Hours.  Instead of looking at a list of clock times and trying to make sure my prayer times fit in, I now look at a day of prayer and add the rest of life to it.  Same things get written down.  Same errands and appointments and reminders, it’s just that they are not the markers and the pillars in my day.  Prayer is.

In the space after Third Hour, it’s the time for schooling.  I jot down a reminder to put dinner in the slow cooker and an appointment for an outside class.  Probably need to fit phone calls and emails in.  Not enough room before Sixth Hour?  Well, those will just have to get moved to the next block.  Three kids all need to be at three different places before Ninth Hour.  Gotta make sure that laundry is done before Compline.  The day stops being about the time and becomes about the prayer.  The Hours are the moments of punctuation.  The pause.  The regrouping.  The focus.  Everything else is just the in between.

This week, Vespers time means Canon or Presanctified.  I’m purposely not writing anything after that.  And that’s how my days are scheduled…with purpose.  Not to live and try to pray, but to live life as prayer.  The blocks might get ridiculously full some days, but those are the times that it’s even more vital to stop and pray, not to pray less.  Oh, I wish they were all peaceful moments at the icon corner with incense, but sometimes it’s clutching my prayer rope in the car or pretending to go to the bathroom for a few, stolen minutes.  I can’t just blow past that stopping point, that pillar of prayer in my day.  I can run and stretch and pull myself all over the schedule instead of praying, but what could possibly be worth doing without prayer?

As I walked back to the nature center to pick up Hilary, I came to a footbridge over the canal.  I paused to snap some pictures of the retreating ice cover, and a bob and a flutter of a different shade of white caught my eye.

Four female deer stood to the side of the bridge, wanting to cross the path but wanting first and foremost to know my intentions.  I instantly froze my movement and watched.  Willing the wind to stop blowing my scent in their direction, I soon accepted that there was no fooling these young ladies.  They knew I was there.  They had places to go and things to do, but that didn’t matter at the moment.  They had time to wait me out.

After awhile, I slowly crept across the bridge and moved to pass them on the trail.  One doe was wary, yes, but not intimidated.  We held eye contact for the longest time, me thanking her and God for her beauty, and she inching toward me as the others munched away at the brush.

Lent takes a lot of extra time.  Extra services; extra efforts in cooking; extra prayer; extra activities.  But if I go to every service and read every book and do everything just the right way…if it doesn’t change me…then I’m just wasting my time.

Time is a forward push, a marathon.  It never stops, each day wasting away at a frantic pace.  If I want to live a life of prayer, then I have to forget about time.  There will never be enough time, but there doesn’t have to be.  This moment.  Right here.  Washing the dishes at Vespers, wiping noses at Sixth Hour, or getting lost in the soft, brown pools of a deer’s eyes at Ninth Hour, this is what time is all about.  The time to pray.

O my soul


It was Vespers.  The familiar rhythm of nightly prayer, yet in a moment, it became very different.  Slowly, the reader began to chant, “Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin…”.  Slowly, ever so slowly, to give time for the action taking place.  Pairs of girls lifted the icons from the stands lining the front of the church, removed the gold cloths underneath, and replaced them with new cloths in a deep, rich shade of purple.  A shuffling and swishing from behind the altar hinted of the rapid change of a passel of awkward altar boys from gold robes to purple ones.  The deacon and the priest changed their vestments from gold to purple.  Even the lampadas on the iconstasis lost their golden glass and instead began to shine on the faces of the icons in a twinkling reflection of purple.  The choir began to sing, but this time, it was to the mournful Lenten melody.  Purple in music.  It was just another Vespers a few minutes ago, but then the mood visibly shifted.  We’ve experienced a great transition from one time to the next.  From one rhythm to another.  We’ve entered the rhythm of Lent.

The Church is so gentle in her instruction.  Orthodoxy might appear to be just about a lot of external “stuff”, but that stuff is the stuff of Heaven.  The change in the colors, the melodies, the prayers, the prostrations, and all of the many differences in the services to come aren’t about altering the worship experience to keep things fresh or interesting.  They aren’t to make life fancier or more difficult.  They’re about a reminder that it’s time for change…the change in me.  Is today really different than yesterday, because today starts Great Lent?  Was my sin acceptable yesterday?  Were my excuses to neglect prayer, or be grouchy with my husband, or be inconsiderate of the limitations of my children o.k. yesterday?  Apparently I thought they were, for I did all those things.

I shouldn’t need Lent to be able to repent.  Every day, every breath is a part of the greatest fast there is; a lifetime of reaching for the God who is my God.  I should repent everyday, but…I don’t.  So, the Church gives me this precious gift of Lent, wrapped in sleek, purple paper.  A whack upside the head and a knocking to my knees.  It’s time to repent!  It’s been time, but you haven’t been listening, so let’s try this a different way!

I begin Great Lent with a confession to God that I did treat yesterday differently.  I did make excuses that I was too busy, or too tired, or too overworked, or too weak.  I did think that maybe later I’d have time or make time.  I did choose to pull away, but God never budged.  I’m the one who moved, and it’s time for me to be the one to move back.  To live today like every day should be.  The day of repentance.  The day of resurrection starts now.

* * * * *

During the first week of Lent, we sing the service of the The Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.  A group of prayers of repentance, this canon is a wake-up call to the soul.  Over and over during the canon, we prostrate ourselves on the ground, body and soul before God.  Over and over, we sing the refrain, “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.”  This morning, Hilary and I made a reminder of this service for our Lenten corner.

I started with a piece of thick craft foam 6″ by 9″.  I laid it on top of a piece of fabric cut a bit larger on each side.  Then, I wrapped it up like a present, hot gluing the edges and cutting off the excess as I went, so it would lay flat.  I cut a piece of felt slightly smaller than the base and glued it to the back, covering up all the ragged fabric edges.

Next, I printed the text I wanted on our handwriting white board and had my seven year old, Hilary , copy the words onto purple paper.  I glued the paper to the front of the fabric covered base and glued down ribbon along the edges.

Hilary and I then played around making felt flowers.  You can see some good tutorials here and here.  I used pinking sheers on some of the flowers for extra texture.

I enjoy making crafts with kids.  I especially like when the craft can mix grown-up and kid appeal.  This craft is one of those.  It has lots of Hilary touches.  She directed the color choices and embellishments.  She helped glue, arrange, and write.  But, it’s got me in it, too.  And of course, it has purple.

Here’s our project in our Lenten corner.  The project notes for the Doors of Repentance table runner can be found here.

Later this week…Annunciation Learning Box Study Guide and Sundays of Lent quilt.

The Doors of Repentance

We have so many metaphors in our lives involving doors.  Who can’t name a lifetime of lessons learned by doors that open and doors that close?  Dreams and opportunities lie behind the first door, the one with the shiny new coat of paint in a color that pops.  The smooth-turning handle that glides under a gentle touch of the hand.  The door that seems to just open by itself.

Disappointment and rejection lie behind the second door.  The one with the ghastly chipped paint and the hinges that groan as it slams in your face.  A ring full of keys and not one opens the tight, rusty lock.

Most doors in life seem to be revolving, though.  Not 1920’s style, cool brass, swish-swishing revolving doors.  Rather, the modern revolving door, often seen at hospitals or other highly trafficked establishments.  The ones that are supposed to “help” you by constantly revolving by themselves.  Approaching this door is a smartly choreographed performance.  A moment of hesitation to catch the rhythm.  A two-step to jump in as an opening passes.  And that moment of claustrophobic panic as the door halts; trapped in a glass cage because you didn’t walk at just the right speed in front of just the right sensor.  The door that opens and closes and opens and closes.  Effortless gliding and jilting slamming in the face all in one.  The joys of modern convenience.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-giver…

As the Church prepares to enter Great Lent, we begin to hear a song about a metaphor.  A metaphor of repentance.  The words of this song have been haunting me every day.  Not haunt in a mournful, disruptive way, but a swish-swish of rhythm with a bright pop of color.  What do the doors of repentance look like?  Fine grade hardware and solid strength…or simple, aged details with a well-worn patina?  I don’t know what the door looks like, and if I ever hope to get through it, I never will.  The doors of repentance aren’t decorative or utilitarian or convenient.  The door of repentance is a passageway in my heart that can only be crossed on my knees.  Eyes and head down.  Crawling through the muck of my own sins.  I don’t see the door for the sake of it’s beauty, though I know it is a lovely thing to look at.  I don’t need to see the door for the sake of my own knowledge, for I believe in the One Who opens it.

Lead me on the paths of salvation, O Mother of God,

For I have profaned my soul with shameful sins

And have wasted my life in laziness.

But, by your intercessions,

Deliver me from all impurity…

Christ tells us that He is the door.  Lord, I’m approaching the door of repentance.  All I see is the dust around my feet and the cracks in the floor.  I can’t even lift my eyes to see where I’m going.  But I’ll crawl; I’ll pull; I’ll drag myself through that door.  My sins separate us.  They press me further and further back in the crowd.  You are the door.  The open door.  It is repentance that leads me through to you.  Open to me the doors of repentance, Father.  Show me where I’m proud.  Show me where I’m lazy.   Show me where I’m anything You are not.

Have mercy on me, O God,

Have mercy on me, O God,

Have mercy on me, O God,

According to Your great mercy.

There is a little spot of our dining room, near the icon corner, that has become a display area for Hilary’s festal crafts.  It seems to be a natural place for things to remain throughout a season, as a visual reminder of the focus of the time.

I began preparing this area for Lent today by decking it with doors.

I’m on a bit of a texture kick lately, so this project has as many textures as possible included.  The fabric is all discontinued home decor samples from the fabric store.  Lots of different patterns and texture at super cheap.  I sewed the main pieces of the fabric base together, but the rest is just done with glue.  Ribbon trim along with a crocheted trim that I made to match.  The fabric doors are embellished with buttons and beads.  The center door holds an old key, reminding me that prayer is the key to unlocking the repentance within me.

I have a long list of projects that will be added to this area in my home.  This is just the beginning.  Some I’ll make.  Some the kids will make.  I’ll be sharing about all of them.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote in this blog.  A whole year.  I don’t like it when people, especially me, make excuses, so I won’t.  It just hasn’t been the time for blogging, but I think it is again.  Shall we start over?

I know that so many of my dear customers and friends are missing Orthodox Chrisitan Craft Supply.  I miss being a part of your families and parishes as well.  Shall we start over there, too?

I don’t think I can return to selling craft kits at this time, but I’d still like to share ideas with you for instructing our children in the Orthodox Faith and making an Orthodox home.  I’ll be sharing lots of ideas here on the blog.  Projects for Lent include a Sundays of Lent quilt, a unit study of the Presanctified Liturgy, and many more.

Also, I’m revising the written materials I sold through Orthodox Christian Craft Supply to be sold as e-books.  To start, I’m selling my Lenten Study Guide.

This study guide was originally sold with a kit to make a Lenten Calendar.  It contains 50 daily readings, tracing the life of Christ in the Gospels.  Each week has a theme, including “Christ the Teacher”, “Christ the Storyteller”, and “Christ the Good Shepherd”.

The study guide includes ideas for making your own Lenten Calendar to count down the days from Clean Monday to Pascha.  You can make a magnetic calendar of paper doors as pictured above.  Don’t want to get that fancy?  No problem.  The Lenten Study Guide includes a printable calendar coloring sheet.  All you need is a kid and a crayon.

Each day of the Fast, read the Scripture with your family and go through another door on the journey to Pascha.  The visual calendar provides a tangible reminder for little ones (and adults, too!) of where we’ve been and where we’re going.  You can use this study guide and calendar year after year.

Great Lent starts Monday!  You can download your Lenten Calendar e-book for $3.95.

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Can you help me spread the word?  I’d love to hear what kind of educational resources people would like to see and requests for projects.  Let me know what you need!

God be with us as we prepare for the beginning of Lent.  May we all have a blessed Fast!


It is not the well who need a Physician

I can’t decide which is worse: a sick baby or a sick teenager.  Of course, I haven’t had a baby in awhile, so my memories of those days are painted with cuddly nostalgia of the good times and gory war stories of the bad times.

If memory serves, one of the worst things about sick babies is their inability to communicate.  How many times did I wish Jared, my one-respiratory-disaster-after-another baby, could have just given me one tiny clue.  Are you making those whistling noises because your nose is stopped up or your throat is closing up?  Which one?  Tell me!  Tell me!

And Lonna, who when she was three years old, I had to drive from doctor to hospital to doctor to hospital for almost a week, before I finally walked into the ER one last time and said that I didn’t know what was wrong with my child, but I wasn’t leaving until they figured it out.  Turned out to be a good plan—she had an appendectomy the next morning.

How wonderful are the middle years, like six year old Hilary, who gives me the play-by-play of every bit of mucous and every hint of a discomfort.  Who climbs up in my lap, even if she has to push me down into a chair to do it, telling me she needs a snuggle.  Who swears that if we just get the pillows and blankets arranged in exactly the right position, everything will be o.k.  And it is.

All three of my children and my husband are sick right now.  My house sounds like we’ve adopted a family of barking seals, and the kitchen counter is littered with a pharmacy of medicines, waiting to be mixed in an alchemy of combinations for each person’s unique complaint.

Lonna is the worst.  Poor Lonna.  The first time I took her to the doctor was December 11th.  She had already been sick for ten days at that point, so pretty soon, she’ll have been sick for two solid months.  Three doctor visits, two urgent care trips, and four rounds of antibiotics have left us with a sore throat, turned into a sinus infection, turned into bronchitis with a hint of pneumonia.

And my fifteen year old child who never pauses to interject her opinion into any given situation and never ceases to talk, talk, talk in an often overwhelming, but always glorious, background music is now so silent.  So impossible to communicate with.  A sick child.  A helpless baby all over again.

“How do you feel today?”


“Is it better or worse?  Anything different?”


“Can I get you something?  Do you want some food?  A drink?”


“Can you describe what you mean when you say you can’t breathe?  (Mentally measuring the difference between stopped up noses and stopped up lungs.)

“Grrr.  Grrr.  Leave me alone.  I just want to go to sleep.”

My baby, my baby.  I feel so helpless.  So, I do the only thing I can do.  I pray.  I sit in the room the girls share in the night, juggling a flashlight and a prayerbook at the same time.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, how great is the multitude of those whom Thou hast healed.  The blind have obtained their sight, the deaf have received their hearing, the dumb have begun to speak, the lame have walked.  Who has run to Thy help and not received healing?  We pray unto Thee:  O Lord, heal this child who is suffering.

Canon to the Lord for a Sick Child

How helpless the feeling of not being in control.  How beautiful the reminder that I’m not now, nor will I ever be, in control.  No matter how old they are.  No matter how sick they are.  No matter how lonely or sad or confused or lost they feel, I am not in control of the lives of my children.

The world is a confusing place.  There is much suffering.  From a bad cold to a catastrophic loss.  From the pains we can’t see in others to the sickness of soul we refuse to see in ourselves.  The world is pain, because it is the world.  There is no taming or understanding it.  But there is faith.  Faith in a God who doesn’t promise us we won’t suffer, but Who keeps the promise never to leave us alone in our suffering.

All things in life can be a vital piece of the working out of our salvation.  Snotty noses, tragic deaths and disasters, and seemingly insignificant daily events.  All things are good in the God Who is with us.

Lord, thank you for teaching me through this time of illness in my family.  Thank you for humbling me and showing me what I lack.  Have mercy on my suffering children.  Have mercy on me.  Heal bodies.  Heal souls.  We are sick indeed.  Heal us from every infirmity.  Glory to God for all things!